Sunday, December 16, 2012

35 Years of Christmas Poems: Christmas 2012

I admit that the idea that I've now done Christmas poems for 35 consecutive years absolutely boggles my mind. Each year I wonder where the new idea is going to come from and it never ceases to amaze that they continue to come. I also get to enjoy the creative aspect of taking pictures to go with the poem and make the work a complete vision.

This year, an idea that actually came to me several years ago and centered upon "ornaments" finally came to fruition. Utilizing a pure dictionary meaning of the word to open the poem took me into uncharted lands; the surprise was that it also gave me a structure that brought the full intent home.

The times today challenge in ways that are sometimes unimaginable if not unbearable. We need to highlight the abundant beauty to make it flourish and grow around and about us. The joy of Christmas is that it is a reminder of the light during the darkest time of the year in the Northern hemisphere. Choose to keep the light alive no matter what. That is the greatest gift we can offer and receive.

Christmas 2012
Richard Perrotti

Beauty is where you find it,
The saying eternally goes.
In your eyes, it multiplies,
Flourishes and grows.

Ornaments can be but a bauble,
Caught by the eye, quickly glanced,
Attracting unusual attention,
By shimmering sparkle enhanced.

Placed in most mundane surroundings,
Any ordinary item transforms
Into something wondrous and special
As our interpretation reforms.

Any prize, “ornamentalized,”
Captivates your attention with light.
When finding that flame in another,
Something sacred within you ignites.

Step back and look all around you;
Take notice of what you see.
Is it a forest of human misgivings
Or a glimmering family tree?

One who looks for such light in the world
Will find what seems out of place.
For one who’s capable of seeing such things,
Reveals his true beauty and grace.

Be the change you wish to see in yourself.
Know it’s true value, it’s worth.
Intentionally granting this gift to yourself
Is a treasure you tender the earth.

Choose to see what beauty surrounds you
In myriad forms of disguise.
Celebrate your own that shines from within;

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Care and Nurturing of a Dream

I am about to donate $100 to a Kickstarter campaign of a long-ago business acquaintance of mine so that he can launch a web series called "The Dive Masters," the story of ... well, let me allow Jason to tell it in his own words:

"Based in Roatan Isla de Bahias, Honduras, “The Dive Masters” follows the real life SCUBA diving adventures of Jason McAnear, Suzette Nelson and other DIve Professionals located in Roatan, Honduras’ West End, a mecca for Scuba divers, both new and veteran as well as visiting other islands throughout the Caribbean."The Dive Masters" takes divers and audiences into the crystal clear waters of the Caribbean to experience nature at its’ most spectacular and encounter a menagerie of undersea life including sharks, dolphins, sea turtles, rays and colorful tropical fish of all sizes. The Dive Masters’ personal lives, interaction with divers and each other is on full display. Nerves and skills are tested as viewers gain a greater understanding of the courage and strength required to be a professional Dive Master."

The reason that I am doing this is very simple. I am doing it for me.

Allow me to explain. I believe that life is nothing more (and certainly nothing less) than the creation and furthering of stories. Shakespeare expressed it as well as anyone when he wrote. "All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players." But I think that we have the ability to co-author the story and the parts that we play. Thus is called into play the power of a dream.

Think about it; what inspires you? What gives you power to move forward when everything around you seems to be grinding to a slow halt? What do you fantasize about, wish for, yearn for? What brings the light to your eyes, life to your voice and joy to your heart?

Conversely, what scares you to death when you actually consider taking action on it? What brings up thoughts like, "Oh, that's not real. It's just a fantasy. That's not really me." And how does thinking thoughts like that make you feel? Sad? Resigned? The opposite of "life-giving?"

Now comes the choice; which one would you rather focus on? Be aware the importance of that question. What you focus on becomes the direction of your life, the fabric of "everyday" and the part you choose to play on the stage of the world. And know that the world will absolutely conspire with you to make that choice as real as can be.

Jason, a man that I knew for a brief time during my tenure at HP, decided to totally embrace his dream. If you read his story on the Kickstarter website, you'll know that he resigned his training position at HP, sold everything he owned but for a suitcase of personal effects and moved to Roatan to become a Dive Master. Thanks to the wonder of today's technology, he has been sharing his story via You Tube and Facebook and keeping those interested enthralled with the details of his incredible decision to utterly change his world.

Now his dream has taken a new and expanded direction; a web series about his adventures in what to many of us seems like Paradise. This could evolve into a television program (there apparently has been interest) and who knows what else? Dreams take us to the stars and beyond if we allow them to.

This brings me back to the start. I am donating to Jason's project for a totally selfish reason - the care and nurturing of my own dreams. The emotion swells within me as I write these words. It tells me that I am alive and that my very real thoughts and dreams are vital and acknowledged. In lending my energy in the form of money to Jason's evolving story, I am telling myself that I am invested in keeping my own dreams alive and nourished. I am thus committed in the creation of my own story, the allowing of my own dreams to thus become "real."

This is present day magic, a genuine power. If you love something, it is your sacred duty to support it. To me, nothing is more important than the power and vitality of my dream, the creation and allowing of my own story. Out of respect for that, I am thrilled to donate to Jason's Dive Masters project and be a part of its realization.

If you feel similar, if you have a dream that is stirring within, nudging you that it's dormancy is at an end, consider caring for and nurturing it by donating to this project.

Dive Masters Kickstarter project

Dreams, and the energy contained within, do not discriminate. Feed them. Start here.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Son of a Beautiful and Violent Mother (by way of Another Ocean)

The ocean has held a special place in my heart for as long as I can remember. Some of my most dearly held memories of childhood can be found at the Jersey shore, frolicking in waves and accumulating copious quantities of sand in my shorts. In adolescence, full days would be spent in sun, sand and surf, shredding my salty lips with frozen treats purchased from a vendor pacing the packed beach. Preferably, I'd find big waves to body surf back into shore. (Here was where I almost left the planet, held under by a particularly violent crest for much too long.)

So why was it that I never wanted to visit Hawai'i? Was it the fact that the flight was so long (more than 12 hours)? Was it that Oahu received more visitors in one week than Tahiti would receive in a full year? There was really no one good answer. But a visit from an indefinable "something" changed all of that back in the year 2000.

There are times in life when one enters a realm of spirit and mystery, a place where one must choose to travel by way of faith as no maps exist. I had met a woman after the turn of the millennium, an unexpected soul who gave me pause to see things differently. Within three months, a secret door in my subconscious slid open and a compelling idea took hold; you both must go to Maui.

The fact that I was in the final process of becoming divorced and had barely the means to live meant nothing; the thought consumed me. I obtained travel brochures, videos, information in the most traditional way (the internet being a strange and unkind beast to me at that time.)

That was March. By November, we were there.

It was definitely not easy. At times it became ridiculously dramatic even to the point where it seemed like we would break up and cancel everything at the last minute. It soon became obvious that despite all protest to the contrary, this journey WAS going to happen.

Once I arrived, I knew why.

Have you ever ventured into someplace new and exotic and felt more at home than you did in your own skin? Waded into a rainbow painted ocean and known peace like never before? Driven around an island so thrilling and exalting that it was like being fully alive for the first time?

This only begins to scratch the surface of what I experienced the first time in Maui.

We went back three times in four years (and even threw in one additional trip to Oahu for a special person.) While sitting in this volcanic arena of beauty and wonder, I penned the words, "My heart lives here always." Towards the end of this April, I reclaim that piece of my heart by crossing my other ocean, appreciating it all more than ever.

While savoring the upcoming journey, I fill my days in the car while listening to favorite Hawaiian language musicians (such as Keali'i Reichel.) How can a language that has but 13 letters (5 vowels and 8 consonants) move my spirit so? I understand not a word yet the power and beauty evoked having me driving those same roads 6,000 miles away even as I traverse the canyons and perils of New York City in my car. It speaks such power, grace and beauty despite the foreign form.

It is in moments such as these that I gain a better idea, a more complete feeling that time and place are magnificent illusions that we invoke and experience. John Lennon said "Reality leaves a lot to the imagination." I find this to be more true than not. Yet these complex feelings that Maui evokes from me are best summed up by T.S. Eliot:

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

Monday, January 9, 2012

34 Years of Christmas Poems: Christmas 2011

We have come to the end of the road, the sleigh parked in the proverbial shed. This is the poem that finishes up the thirty-four year run I've shared with you and I personally can't think of a nicer way to conclude.

I had the inspiration for this poem literally one year in advance. This is a lovely, true story of a continuing legacy of kindness, charity and remembrance. It starts with my meeting Jeri almost twelve years ago back in 2000. Among the many things I learned about her was that she helped her dad deliver Christmas stockings to the residents of the health care center in the assisted living facility where Harry, her dad lived. He had been doing this for years, hanging stockings from clothes lines strung up in his small room and accumulating the odds-and-ends of life to be distributed just before Christmas. The one absolute he insisted on was a box of Nabisco Animal Crackers in each stocking.

Over the years, I would help with this project by attending the wrapping party at the facility. Yes, each little item was wrapped to give the joy of opening up several presents to these ill senior citizens. For many, it would be the only gifts they would receive.

Harry moved on to "supervise us from above" in 2005 and the project lives on through the grace and determination of Jeri and her daughter, Jennifer. It has grown despite all odds and seems to be taking on an increased vitality of its own, which I think has to do with a certain unseen "elf" smiling on everyone involved.

I took many of the pictures as we distributed stockings in 2010 as well as shots of some of the happy volunteers from this past December. I am so pleased to commemorate this wonderful practice of true Christmas spirit in the current edition of the poem and can think of no finer way to say, "until we meet again next year."

I hope you've enjoyed the series as much as I have enjoyed sharing it with you. I wish you the warmth and spirit of Christmas especially now as we move deep into January. Choose to keep the light alive. Your life will be so much better for it.

Christmas 2011
Richard Perrotti

Life can be viewed as a story,
Authored on the pages of time.
A tapestry tale woven in threads
Of acts full of detail sublime.

The start brings discovery and wonder
With everything utterly new.
The middle is filled with drama and growth
As we harvest our own field of view.

Now everyone loves happy endings
But life isn’t always so kind.
Then the gentle angels of our nature
Provide us a gentle remind.

Years ago, one such angel
Took upon himself such a task.
He would bring some joy to sick elders,
While donning a Santa Claus mask.

Where he lived had a health care center;
There the sick and suffering would spend
Lonely times during holiday season,
Wondering if they still had a friend.

Then on a morning near Christmas,
What to wondering eyes should appear
But a stocking to them signed, “From Santa,”
Overflowing with holiday cheer.

Playing cards, lotions, tissues and pens;
The baubles of life in itself.
Each gaily wrapped with love and great care
As if by their own special elf.

Fast forward to now’s precious moment
As we gather from near and afar.
Making stockings that say, “I remember”
Even if I don’t know who you are.

Wrapping boxes of animal crackers,
Concerns and cares fly like the birds.
For it matters not what you’re saying;
Your actions speak louder than words.

Walking the halls on a silent night,
Placing stockings made with and by love,
As we continue his work and remember
Our Christmas elf smiling above.

34 Years of Christmas Poems: Christmas 2010

As we approach the finish line, this poem involves one of the most interesting, strange and true stories that directly inspired the end product. This story actually became the poem.

In 2010, I was really having trouble letting the theme come through. I was rereading all of the old poems desiring both inspiration and originality, not wanting to be repetitive. As one moves into a fourth decade of doing a project, that is an element of concern. Still nothing was helping.

Needing something to shift the energy, I did the most unlikely thing that I could imagine; I grabbed my camera and headed to a nearby local mall. It wasn't too insane as there was still another shopping weekend to go before Christmas. I was able to stroll around with little problem.

I walked into several stores including one called "A Christmas To Remember." It was a seasonal shop with all sorts of decorations and holiday paraphernalia. When I exited, I saw the mall's Giving Tree, where one could pull off an ornamental slip of paper and purchase a requested gift for a local needy family. Here was the inspiration I had been searching for.

I framed the shot to capture the tree and the name of the store that I had just exited. A perfect juxtaposition, I imagined that it would work beautifully in verse. As I was squeezing off shots to give myself a variety to choose from, I felt a tap on my shoulder.

Rather than spelling it all out, I'll simply tell you that I left the mall in a foul mood. When you read the poem, you'll understand why. However during the ride home as I was seething about lovely things like injustice and stupidity, I had the tiniest inkling that asked, "What would happen if you could see this differently?"

Enormous, instantaneous shift. The poem and the cover indicating "a light in the darkness," sprang almost fully realized from my mind and heart. A task that loomed imposing now turned into one of the most amazing and amusing anecdotes and poems that I have ever written.

Christmas 2010
Richard Perrotti

The poem was a long time in coming,
With Christmas but two weeks away.
The author, re-reading old verses,
Was struggling for new words to say.

In fits and starts, he decided,
His horizons just had to expand.
So, camera in hand, he ventured
Out into “Shopping Mall Land.”

Inspiration revealed itself quickly,
In a scene set just to enthrall;
The store, “A Christmas To Remember,”
Near the “Giving Tree” placed by the mall.

Framing and snapping great pictures,
He was mentally writing the poem.
When suddenly darkness descended
In the form of a big mall cop “gnome.”

“You can’t take those pictures,” he ordered.
“The store and the mall won’t allow.
“Sorry,” he said, “I must do my job.
You’ll have to delete them right now.”

He stood and watched me erase them
While I muttered dark “holiday glee,”
I swear that all of this happened,
For, of course, the “author” is me!

He walked away, in these paranoid times,
As joy vacated my soul.
It felt as though Santa had left me
A monstrous bucket of coal.

But the “Giving Tree” stood before me,
A clear choice embodying.
I smiled at the easy decision;
It’s always the simplest thing.

I turned away in forgiveness
Of me and the big mall cop “elf.”
For the world, my friends, cannot give you
What you will not give to yourself.

I’ll shine one small light in the darkness
And keep it ablaze in my heart.
This one humble act of my choosing
Is the simplest place I can start.

December 2010 notables:
8th - With the second launch of the SpaceX Dragon, SpaceX becomes the first privately held company to successfully launch, orbit and recover a spacecraft.
11th - Two explosions occur in a busy shopping district of Stockholm, Sweden, killing one and injuring two others. Officials say the incident is being treated as a terrorist attack.
22nd - The repeal of the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy, the 17-year-old policy banning on homosexuals serving openly in the United States military, was signed into law by President Barack Obama.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

34 Years of Christmas Poems: Christmas 2009

I suggested to you at the start of this project that the poems would reflect many trends; personal, historical and technological. The last poem in 2008 asked for help as challenges seemed about to overwhelm. This 2009 version is yet again another "dark night of the soul" request for assistance, to find the inner light and choose to embrace it.

As we get older, it will be fascinating to see how historians choose to recall these years. I am experienced enough to know that there is no "hard and fast" fact based history; it all depends on the motivation and inclination of the observer scribe.

I instead am very thankful and appreciative to somewhat understand the power within. The holiday season normally stirs up fairly powerful emotions. As inspiration strikes me, a "reminder" of who we are, what we are all connected by and to, will imbed itself in the verses.

After that, it's all there for the choosing. Muddle around in the darkness or embrace the light; that's entirely up to us. It always has been and I believe that it always will be.

That choice is what life is all about... in my humble opinion!

Christmas 2009
Richard Perrotti

Prophets will come, profits will go,
Especially as the daylight grows dear.
Whether past or present, frenzy arises
Towards the end of each calendar year.

We seem at split purpose as days grow shorter,
Depression dueling with bliss.
We conjure the memory of childhood joy
But something seems vacant, amiss.

Perhaps these times we’re now living
Can account for deep holiday blue.
But this feeling was viral, rapidly spreading
Like a full-blown holiday flu!

One quiet evening, I prayed for assistance
To try and return to the light.
Even Scrooge had his troubles, compounded by ghosts,
Yet emerged from his soul’s darkest night.

As if in a dream… Was it a dream?
A voice from within did advance.
It posed but one simple question;
“Christmas by choice or by chance?”

This thought surprised and confused me
But the voice did not hesitate.
“You cover your light with a bushel
And bemoan the cruelness of fate.

Choose to be one with your power,
Not chance what the fates will allow.
You walk in the footsteps of angels,
Who never ‘muddle through somehow.’”

With that, my present did beckon
Like a gift bestowed from above;
My spirit rejoined by my choosing
To live from the power of love.

December 2009 (the events grow shorter as we approach "now"):
8th - Bombings in Baghdad, Iraq kill 127 and injure 448.
11th - Tiger Woods announced an indefinite leave from professional golf to focus on his marriage.
15th - Boeing's new 787 Dreamliner makes its maiden flight from Seattle, Washington.
25th - Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab unsuccessfully attempts a terrorist attack against the US while on board Northwest Airlines Flight 253
28th - 43 people die in a suicide bombing in Karachi, Pakistan, where Shia Muslims were observing the Day of Ashura.